Cities asking Congress for $250 billion in aid
It's official, the rent is too damn high in South Florida.

Miami, Florida skyline and bay at sunset seen through palm trees
Nation's mayors say cities will need lots of federal help.

America’s mayors are getting in line at Congress with dire predictions of overwhelmed city services, plunging local tax revenues and a request for $250 billion in flexible, emergency fiscal assistance, to address the coronavirus economic meltdown.

“Without significant federal assistance, we soon will be faced with having to make decisions that could include laying off employees, cutting budgets, and reducing or eliminating critically needed services,” the U.S. Conference of Mayors stated in a letter sent Wednesday.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate President Mitch McConnell and minority leaders of both chambers, the mayors called their cities “the economic engines of the nation and home to the workers who make those engines run.”

“The result of the growing pandemic is that most of these engines, which account for 91 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product and wage income, have slowed, and many have stopped,” warns the letter, signed by the league’s president, Rochester Hills, Mich., Mayor Bryan Barnett, and several others, including Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer and Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley.

They warn that the loss of the tourism, lodging, and hospitality economies, which are collapsing in Florida and elsewhere, and the second wave of shutdowns, which already are closing car factories nationwide, will lead to economic contraction and dramatically declining tax revenues in the places where more people will need help.

“Cities could be hit with additional pension liabilities due to market volatility while, at the same time, having to shoulder the cost of responding to the crisis. Lost revenue from economic contraction will put pressure on the ability to deliver basic services — including police, fire, water, and sewer — or aid business sectors that serve as the foundation of our metro economies,” they warn.

The mayors offered a long list of immediate needs for the money starting with the additional necessary costs incurred by cities, including overtime, sick time, other employee compensation, telecommuting equipment, collections forgiveness, default from other industries on payment obligations, gutted sales tax distributions, and other impacts yet to be fully known or understood; personnel costs for increased infectious disease capacity within public health departments, and personal protective equipment such as devices for respiratory protection, disposable gowns, gloves, and eye protection.

They also are seeking more local flexibility in using a variety of existing programs ranging from Community Development Block Grants to State Opioid Response Grants.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


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